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Governor Doyle Elam Carlton
By Spessard Stone
Doyle Elam Carlton was an attorney, state senator, and Florida Governor from 1929-33.
Doyle Elam Carlton, son of Albert Carlton and Martha (McEwen) Carlton, was born July 6, 1885, west of now Wauchula, Florida. Nearly all references cite July 6, 1887 for the birth of Doyle E. Carlton. Albert Carlton, his father, in his pension application of March 25, 1908 and April 1, 1915 cited for his son's birth respectively "Doyle July 6, 1885" and "Doyle Elam Carlton July 6, 1885." Leland Francis Carlton, his younger brother, was born January 23, 1888. The latter's daughter, Betty Carlton Kay, told this writer that her uncle was born July 6, 1885, that there was not only six months difference in the ages of her uncle and father and that Doyle had taken two years off his age for political reasons. National Cyclopedia Of American Biography in two editions has, respectively, on page 160, "Carlton, Doyle Elam, 24th governor of Florida, (1929-33), was born at Wauchula, Fla. July 6, 1887..." and Vol. 57, page 636, "Carlton, Doyle Elam, lawyer and governor of Florida, was born at Wauchula, Fla., July 6, 1885..."
Doyle was a well-educated man. He received his primary education in Wauchula and, as there was then no local high school, he then attended Stetson Academy. He subsequently graduated from the Liberal Arts College of Stetson University with an A.B. in 1909. Doyle then attended Chicago University where he received an A.B. in 1910. He earned his L.L.B. in 1912 from Columbia University, New York.
Admitted to the Florida Bar in 1912, Doyle was an attorney-at-law in Tampa, Florida for most of his career. He remained active until the summer before his death, except for government service, as a partner in the law firm, initially with Giddings E. Mabry as Mabry & Carlton until 1921 when O. K. Reaves joined the firm as Mabry, Reaves & Carlton. When Governor Carlton rejoined the firm in 1933, it was as Mabry, Reaves, Carlton and White. At the time of his death, it was Carlton, Fields, Ward, Emmanuel, Smith & Cutler. The firm engaged in the general practice of law and later specialized in various branches of law, including taxation, probate, real estate, trial work, and labor matters. In 1947 Doyle was special attorney for Florida in the settlement which brought to the state ownership of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota.
Doyle began his political career in 1916 when he was elected for a two-year term as the State Senator from the 11th District, composed of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and served in the sessions of 1917 and 1919. He was a leader in formulating a highway building program, the campaign to ratify the constitutional amendment for women's suffrage, and introduced and secured passage of the first Florida legislation for free school textbooks.
In 1928 Mr. Carlton was elected Florida Governor. In the Democratic primary on June 5, 1928 he received 77,569 first choice and 28,471 second choice votes to win in a field of five candidates, who included former Governor Sidney J. Catts. In November 1928, Doyle defeated his Republican opponent, W. J. Howey, by a margin of 148,455 to 95,018.
Governor Carlton's term of office, January 8, 1929 to January 3, 1933, was dominated by financial problems caused the Great Depression. During his tenure, state payrolls were reduced, including his salary from $9,000 to $7,500 per year, new banking laws were enacted, and a three-cent gasoline tax was passed to promote highway construction. Furthermore, the Mediterranean fruit fly, which had attacked citrus, was checked, and a federal Everglades reclamation project commenced due to his initiative.
To keep state government functioning, he called special sessions of the legislature in 1929 and 1931, with two 20-day sessions each in the latter to complement the regular 60-day session. The public schools were kept from collapsing. In 1931 the Legislature passed the state�s first pari-mutuel racing bill and Governor Carlton vetoed it, but his veto was overridden. He said that he vetoed the bill despite a $100,000 bribe offer.
Leland Hawes, historical writer for The Tampa Tribune, commented that Governor Carlton came out of his four-year term with a reputation for integrity in the face of great pressure.
In 1936 Governor Carlton ran for the Democratic nomination for U. S. Senator. Although he was endorsed by the Democratic executive committee and most state newspapers, Charles O. Andrews lined up a powerful bloc of forces opposed to Carlton, the foremost being the Townsend Clubs, and by a margin of 67,387 to 62,530 defeated Governor Carlton in the primary of August 11, 1936.
Governor Carlton, thereafter, devoted his attention to his law practice, business interests, and civic and church activities. In the mid-1920s, he had financed the Carlton Hotel at Horatio St., Tampa, which was located by his frame home at 611-615 West Horatio Street where he'd lived before occupying the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. Later he lived at Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa. He also had other business interests, including citrus groves and cattle ranches in his native Hardee County.
Doyle also served in federal positions. President Eisenhower in December 1957 appointed him to the Federal Civil Rights Commission and served to 1961. Under President Kennedy, he was a member of the National Agricultural Advisory Commission from 1961-63.
Doyle was active in fraternal and civic affairs and received numerous honors. He was affiliated with the Masonic order (Shriner, Knight Templar), Knights of Pythias, Royal Order of Scotland, Kiwanis, and Elks. He was a director of the Florida State Fair and Gaparilla Association. A member of the Chamber of Commerce, he served as president of the Florida State Chamber of Commerce in 1951-52 and 1953-54, as state United Service Organization (USO) chairman and as state chairman of the American Cancer Society. The Tampa Civitan Club honored him as Outstanding Citizen of 1954. He was for forty-four years a trustee of Stetson University. He was honored with numerous honorary degrees, including LL.D. from Stetson University in 1929, the University of Chicago in 1930, and University of Florida in 1933, and L.H.D. from Florida Southern College and from the University of Tampa in 1953. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Tampa, of which he was a life deacon. Doyle and his wife, Nell, were the main contributors for the church's Carlton Activities Building, which was named for them.
Governor Doyle Elam Carlton died on October 25, 1972 at Tampa and was buried in Myrtle Hill Memorial Park, Tampa.
At Tampa on July 30, 1912, Doyle married Nell Ray, daughter of Edward Dennis Ray and Mary Ellen (Smith) Ray. Nell was born in Meridian, Mississippi on January 27, 1891 and had come to Tampa with her family in 1899. A graduate of Hillsborough High School, Nell attended Stetson University where she met Doyle while he was recruiting for his alma mater. While he was serving as governor, Mrs. Carlton was known as a gracious first lady and hostess.
Mrs. Carlton was a major contributor to the cultural, religious and intellectual life of Tampa. An accomplished pianist, she was a longstanding member of the Friday Morning Musicale, of which she was an honorary president. During World War 11, she was instrumental in organizing the Junior Red Cross in Hillsborough County schools. She was known for the book reviews she gave to social and church groups. A member of the First Baptist Church of Tampa, she was a teacher of the Gleaners' class and she organized the church's Hostesses Program, which served meals for civic and church groups.
Nell Ray Carlton died February 18, 1982, at which time she was living at 2401 Bayshore Blvd.
Burial was in Myrtle Hill Memorial Park.
Issue of Governor and Mrs. Doyle Elam Carlton:
1. Martha Katharine Carlton, born October 16, 1914, Tampa; died January 9, 2008, Tampa, Fla.; married in Tampa on June 3, 1937 David Elmer Ward, son of David Thomas and Mary Ethel (Johnson) Ward.
Martha Carlton Ward
2. Mary Ellen Carlton, born March 19, 1920, Tampa; died July 9, 1985, Tallahassee, Fla.; married Dr. William Jones Ott, son of William J. Ott and Marguerite (Alexander) Ott.
3. Doyle Elam Carlton, Jr., born July 4, 1922, Tampa; died May 10, 2003, Wauchula, Fla.; married on November 27, 1943 at Tampa, Fla. Mildred Woodbery, daughter of Daniel Hoyt Woodbery and Elizabeth (Johnstone) Woodbery.
References: Pioneer Florida, 3 Volumes (Southern Publishing Company, Tampa), 1959, Volume 3, page 1; Allen Morris, Florida Handbook; Carol Neef, "Ex-Governor Carlton Dies," The Tampa Tribune, October 26, 1972; "Nell Ray Carlton, Wife of Ex-Governor Dies," The Tampa Tribune, Friday, February 19, 1982; Mildred W. Carlton; Susan C. Smith; National Cyclopedia Of American Biography, p. 636; date of marriage, Susan Carlton Smith, Feb. 24, 2008.
This profile is adapted from the author's articles in The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Fla.) of March 3, 1988 and Lineage of John Carlton, 1998, pp. 63-65.
February 15, 2001, January 21, 2002, January 20, 2008, February 24, 2008,